A pride of lions "took over" Terminal 2 at Sofia Airport

A pride of six adult lions and one cub strolls freely around the Atrium of Terminal 2 at Sofia Airport. No, this is not the scenario of a Hollywood action movie or a sensational headline of the tabloid press. The lions are not real, but they are made of paper and are part of an exhibition of the Bulgarian office of FOUR PAWS. With this exhibition the International animal welfare organization would like to raise awareness about the fate of thousands of big cats, who are still kept in captivity all over the world.

"Between 2000 and 5000 big cats still live in captivity in Europe and in many other countries of the world - in zoos, circuses or kept by private owners. Very often the conditions under which these majestic animals live are far from their needs and their natural environment. The International animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS is helping captive big cats by informing the public about their fate and saving as many as possible," reads the introduction text of the exhibition. In a series of 20 photos FOUR PAWS presents the stories of various big cats rescued from terrible living conditions in circuses, zoos, private homes or farm lions kept for trophy hunting. 

Four big cats from Bulgaria are also presented at the exhibition. Lionesses Lea, Simona and Bagheera were rescued by FOUR PAWS in 2010 and 2011 and were accommodated in Lionsrock - one of the three shelters for big cats which the charity manages in Africa and Europe. Varvara, the last Bulgarian circus tiger, was rescued in TIERART rescue centre in Germany in September this year, after complete ban on wild mammals in circuses entered into force in Bulgaria.

The exhibition is part of a broad campaign of FOUR PAWS in several major European cities, including Hamburg, London and Vienna. All events are united by hashtag #FOURPAWSgowild.

FOUR PAWS express their gratitude to Sofia Airport, which agreed to host the exhibition and provided the area between Departures and Arrivals at Terminal 2. The exhibition will remain there until the end of the month. The paper lion models are made at Sphere Design agency and will be offered to a charity auction. The funds raised from the auction will be spent on neutering and treatment of some of the younger brothers of tigers and lions - stray cats of Sofia.